Irish writer/director Alan Brennan reaches for the stars with his low-budget, Dublin-set sci-fi adventure. With a stellar cast and a big heart will this be a breakout Irish hit or another Zonad shaped miss?”
Joe Norman is just 11 years old when his father was suddenly taken from him by illness. On his deathbed his father Bill imparts his final gift to his son, the truth about where he comes from and what it means. It turns out that, far from being an ordinary young boy growing up in Dublin, Joe is actually the last son of a distant planet that he and his father fled from to escape a terrible fate. And it is Joe’s fate to one day return there as a triumphant hero. 15 years later and armed with this knowledge Joe attempts to make his way in this world in as most an unassuming way as possible…for you see there are forces at work that would have the last son of Zalaxon return in chains. Enter Jenn, a pretty young girl who just might be Joe’s one chance at continuing his race on Earth…
Life of Pi star Rafe Spall is simply brilliant as the soft-spoken, withdrawn and nerdy Joe. His characterisation of Joe’s quest for truth is filled with a real subtle grace and sweetness that never borders on saccharine. That the audience wants so badly for all that Joe thinks to be true is all down to how well Spall deadpans his way through the obvious comedy around him. Jenn Murray too is a revelation. The interplay between her and Spall gives depth to a warm and honest relationship, with each party bringing a beautiful tenderness to offset the potential craziness of the circumstances. David Morrissey adds his year of experience as the Jor-El to Spall’s Kal-El. While not quite on a par with Brando he does well with a modest role. The supporting cast too is full of comic gems, with Aoife Duffin, Rory Keenan and particularly John Lynn the stand-outs.
Writer/director Alan Brenan knows exactly what he has here and lets his cast do the heavy lifting. We’ve seen similar plots before as Earthbound throws classic sci-fi tropes from K-Pax, Superman and even Flash Gordon together into the mix. That’s no bad thing when it’s handled as carefully as it is here. There’s a delightful little running background story as interludes from Joe’s favourite childhood TV series Space Commander play out at key moments in the film. If a full episode is included on the DVD then that would be superb. The visual effects betray the sparse budget, although it must be said that some of the practical effects are very good. These, together with errors in geography and the problems with continuity distract a little, but then another tender moment or comic incident occurs and you forget the ropiness. Liam Bates score is almost a note perfect accompaniment too.
Charming, warm, and funny, if a little rough around the edges, this is a great little film with its heart in the right place.